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California Bans The Importation Of Non-Native Frogs For Use As Food

Victory for California’s native amphibians!

Millions of non-native American Bullfrogs enter San Francisco and Los Angeles each year from ports in China, Taiwan, Brazil and Uruguay. These farm-raised frogs are known carriers of a deadly chytrid fungus that has decimated California’s Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog Populations, and caused the complete extinction of up to 100 amphibian species worldwide. One study showed that over 60% of the American Bullfrogs tested in California markets were infected with this deadly fungus! Being farmed around the world has also enabled the bullfrogs to become harmful invasive species that prey on native wildlife — both overseas, and right here in California. The endangered California Red-Legged Frogs are a favorite food of the predatory bullfrogs.

On April 8th, 2010, the CA Department of Fish & Game made the wise decision to ban the importation of non-native frogs and turtles for food. Unfortunately, a vocal minority of restaurant and supermarket owners successfully lobbied the Fish & Game Commission to hold a “re-consideration” of that ruling.

On May 19th, 2010, SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger testified at the Commission’s May 19th “reconsideration” hearing, highlighting the spread of infectious disease and invasive species that inevitably accompany the frog legs trade. Not only did the Commission vote 3-2 to maintain the ban on the importation of non-native frogs and turtles for use as food, they also voted to research methods of enforcing the ban and ensuring invasive species do not slip into the state via potential loopholes.

Thanks to the 1,196 SAVE THE FROGS! supporters letters that sent in letters to the Department of Fish & Game over the past 4 days!

Dr. Kriger’s letter to the Fish & Game Commission follows:
“My name is Dr. Kerry Kriger. I am the Founder & Executive Director of SAVE THE FROGS!, America’s first and only public charity dedicated to amphibian conservation. Our mission is to protect amphibian populations and to promote a society that respects and appreciates nature and wildlife. I have been involved in environmental conservation for 14 years, and have worked full time on amphibian conservation for 7 years.

On behalf of SAVE THE FROGS!, on behalf of our 300+ members and 1,300+ financial supporters, and on behalf of California’s 16 threatened amphibian species, I urge you to maintain the ban on the importation of non-native frogs and turtles into California for use as food. Reversing this ban would ensure the continued and magnified spread of harmful invasive species and pathogens, and thus would be in the worst interest of California’s ecosystems and all the state’s inhabitants.

Invasive species are one of the most significant threats to biodiversity in California and worldwide, and they are also one of the most costly: the Nature Conservancy estimates that invasive species cost Americans 120 billion dollars each year.

Millions of non-native American Bullfrogs enter San Francisco and Los Angeles each year from ports in China, Taiwan, Brazil, Uruguay and elsewhere. These farm-raised frogs are known carriers of a deadly chytrid fungus that has decimated California’s native frog populations and caused the complete extinction of up to 100 amphibian species worldwide. A recent study showed that over 60% of the American Bullfrogs tested in California markets were infected with this deadly fungus.

Being farmed around the world has also enabled the bullfrogs to become harmful invasive species that prey on native wildlife – both overseas, and right here in California. For example, the endangered California Red-Legged Frog is a favorite prey item of the predatory bullfrogs.

So long as non-native frogs and turtles are brought into the state, it is inevitable that some will escape or be set free and establish populations. It is also inevitable that the waterborne pathogens these animals carry will enter Californian ecosystems, as the regulation and sterilization of used water from the animal’s tanks would not be feasible. Eradication of invasive species and pathogens is nearly impossible.

Though assertions have been put forth that this ban improperly targets Asian communities due to the lack of a concurrent regulation of non-native frogs and turtles for use as pets, two wrongs do not make a right: a lack of proper regulation of the pet industry does not justify a failure to act intelligently with the food industry. Indeed I also urge the Department of Fish & Game to consider similar regulations on the import of non-native frogs and turtles for use as pets.

Also, the claim that this ban harms traditional Chinese culture is flawed:

First: the vast majority of the frogs being imported for food are American Bullfrogs, which have only a very recent history in Chinese cuisine; and

Second: Cultures necessarily evolve: if they did not, we would have long since eaten the buffalo and the California Red-Legged Frog to complete extinction, as we did the passenger pigeons.

As Americans, we are fortunate to have many choices of food, and thus it is our responsibility to act wisely and ensure that our culinary decisions are not unduly impacting our natural heritage and the future of our planet. As such, I request the Fish & Game Commission and the Department of Fish & Game uphold the ban on the importation of non-native frogs and turtles into California.

Thanks for your consideration.
Dr. Kerry Kriger

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